A “Stream of Consciousness” Vocal Recital
took place on:
27 March 2011
Manhattan School of Music / New York City / U.S.A.
“Il Pleut” (or “It’s Raining”) is a poem by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918). Here’s the poem in its original form:
Here is a translation (by Roger Shattuck) of the poem:
It’s raining women’s voices as if they had died even in memory
And it’s raining you as well marvellous encounters of my life O little drops
Those rearing clouds begin to neigh a whole universe of auricular cities
Listen if it rains while regret and disdain weep to an ancient music
Listen to the bonds fall off which hold you above and below
This poem was a central part of my recital for a couple reasons. First, I was struck by the text, especially the first line, “It’s raining women’s voices…” and the last line, “Listen to the bonds fall off which hold you above and below.” I think that the ideas of the poem, and especially the first and last lines, encompassed what I aimed to accomplish in my recital: to present the voices of (wo)men AND to free the audience (and myself) from the “bonds” of the traditional recital procedure and musical expectations. Also, the poem was recited once and sung in two different settings (of the original French) directly in the middle of the performance.
What do I mean by “free” the audience and myself from the “bonds” of the traditional recital procedure? I’ve given many recitals in the traditional style in the past: hand out a program when the audience walks in, then walk on stage, bow, sing a song set, bow again, walk offstage (for a sip of water or whatever people do backstage!), walk back onstage, bow, sing…
This recital was my first attempt at upending the traditional recital. When I say “stream of consciousness,” I mean that the recital took place over the course of about one hour with no breaks. Poetry flowed into music into sound and back into poetry, all following what I am call an “emotional contour.” Programs were be available at the end of the recital so that the audience can focus in the moment on what was happening in the text/music/movement.
The most important goal that I had in this recital was to intone the human condition with the poetry and music presented. Poetry and music have always driven me artistically in an equal way.
This recital included some of my own poetry. A sizable chunk of the recital (at the “Golden Mean” of the hour) was devoted to the premiere a work by composer Matt Aelmore which set my poetry. Titled Pierrot Opera, the piece was a five-song cycle about Pierrot, the “sad clown” stock character from the 17th-century Italian Commedia dell’Arte, as a modern man and pining for his love, Columbine, who will never love him in return. Three of the songs were about scenes in Pierrot’s life, written in formal poetic structures, and two poems were Pierrot’s “musings,” written in free verse. The piece was scored for soprano, clarinet, baritone saxophone, viola, guitar, and piano.